Celebrity Masterchef: Week 1

Firstly, an apology. The Celebrity Masterchef preview last week contained several factual errors, such as an assumption that each week ended on Wednesday, and only one celebrity got thrown out. That was nonsense and I’m sorry.

Being the unfunded, labour-of-love organisation that we are here at Tellysquawk cellars <Looks pointedly at Tips Jar>, we don’t get sent preview discs, press releases and the like, so we have to cobble it all together from the BBC website research our articles carefully.

It turns out that each week is fully self-contained, and after Wednesday there are two more exciting episodes, each more knee-tremblingly climactic than the last, with a final elimination down to one contestant on the Friday.

To recap, businesswoman Michelle Mone; former model Linda Lusardi; Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell and Tony “Nick Pickard” The Chef From Hollyoaks were in the kitchen for this first week.

Each of them showed an almost supernatural inability to cook. On the mystery box test Linda, who is obviously a fan of carb loading, or is determined to give her kids diabetes, served crab spaghetti on toast with mash. Admittedly I would have this for my tea, but the judges weren’t impressed.

Michelle was amazing. She kept cutting herself, crying, complaining that it hurt, crying, explaining how brilliant a businesswoman she was and generally doing not very much of use. During the teamwork exercise she let Nick run around like a loon doing absolutely everything, while she complained about peeling some apples.

Nick was the best of the bunch. He cooked beautiful spicy crab cakes from the mystery box, made a lovely job of the classic recipe test and was brilliant in the teamwork test, serving hundreds of dinners to a bunch of hipster children at the Brit School.

Darren, whose main aim was to show the world he could cook something other than jerk chicken, cooked jerk chicken twice. It looked great; unfortunately everything else he did was terrible: on the skills test he decided to flay his flatfish in the style of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs instead of filleting it. “I don’t have to eat this, do I?” he said, as he saw the look of horror on Gregg and John’s faces. It wasn’t a massive surprise that Darren was first out, although I’d have got rid of Michelle.

The remaining three went into Thursday with a classic Masterchef opening montage. This contained a very disturbing hi-def close up of Nick whipping cream, disturbingly shot only from the waist up, so we were treated to vigorous arm movements and a deeply unpleasant sex face. No wonder Mandy left him.

Thursday was professional kitchen day – the team went off to Surf and Turf megaplex Redhook, where they were mentored by Ian Dury as played by Andy Serkis with a Spanish accent. Nick and Linda did well, Michelle cut herself again and cried.

Friday, as always, was the three-course slap-up challenge. The judges this week were brilliant – three no-nonsense ladies of steel from the WI. To be honest, these three were more fun than the cooking. There was a young one with a voice like a transatlantic Doppler, a very tough looking one and a smiley one who looked like she was deeply familiar with the taste of blood.

They argued over the right consistency of risotto:

“Well, I went on a cookery course in Italy, and they said risotto should be just like this (you stupid cow)”;

Not to mention the consistency of lemon possets:

“It’s very tricky to get right” “I’ll give you my recipe. It never goes wrong (you two are idiots)”

And the amount of crust on a rack of lamb:

“I haven’t got any crust, you two have got the crust (I hate you both).”

There was murder in their eyes: I genuinely believe that if there’d not been the cameras there the tasting table would have developed into a three way ruck with hair pulling, fork insertion and the winner making a Victoria Sandwich from the bones of her vanquished foes.

Amazingly, Michelle didn’t cut herself this time. Unfortunately she concentrated so much on her starter of fish soup that she’d forgotten to cook either of her other courses, and ended up serving dessert half an hour late. The WI ladies buried her under a patio.

Linda went mad, and cooked a lovely looking dish of Mediterranean sardines mysteriously served on three tonnes of mashed potato. She also made fantastic shortbread biscuits.

Nick cooked lemon risotto, rack of lamb and pannacotta with strawberries, and served it up with twinkly eyes and cheeky winks. The ladies what lunch forgot about their feud, and melted.

Michelle was first out, and after some very intense staring at each other from the judges, both Nick and Linda were put through to the quarters.

The best thing about this series is that John is cooking a lot more. I think he is feeling a touch under pressure from Michel Roux and his kitchen skills. He showed us how to make scampi, chips & mayonnaise, then cooked one of his signature dishes: stuffed saddle of rabbit with garlic polenta and black cabbage. Gregg was fawning over him at this point, in a classic sequence of unrequited love.

“I never liked polenta until you made it for me”

“Whatever, mate”

John then added parmesan, cream, butter and mascarpone to the polenta mix, making Gregg’s heart and lovepump simultaneously explode.


Through: Nick Pickard, Linda Lusardi

Out: Michelle Mone, Darren Campbell

Gregg’s shout of the week: Nothing. He hardly shouted at all, sadly. He did however, turn up outside the stage school dressed as Caractacus Potts. Meanwhile, John looked like he’d slept in his suit. I’m worried about the lad – the pressure is getting to him.

Dish of the week: Darren’s jerk chicken and plantain – just lovely, and it deserved to go through ahead of Michelle.

Gregg and John’s love at the movies”:

The Empire Strikes Back.

A classic tale of barely requited love, with steam.

Gregg (Princess Leia) over a pan full of carbonite polenta, as his eyes fill with tears: “I love you”

John (Han Solo): “I know”

Uncle Graeme’s Mystery Box Recipe:

Crab & Sweetcorn Chowder

After Darren’s attempt at crab soup turned to disaster, I think it’s only fair to make a classic crab chowder. It’ll be even better if you make your own stock with the crab shells and some veg, then:

Cook a chopped onion & a couple of cloves of garlic in lots of butter until soft, stir in a tablespoon of flour and cook for another couple of minutes. Slowly add about a litre of hot fish stock (to stop lumps forming), and a large potato chopped up into 1cm cubes, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the potato is tender.

Add a can of sweetcorn (or 250g of defrosted frozen corn, or mess about with fresh corn if you really want to) and the brown and white meat from one cooked crab.

Take out about 1/3 of the soup and blend until smooth, then return the whole lot to the pan, add some cream, season and simmer for another five or so minutes until the soup is nice and thick and the sweetcorn is tender (less cooking is needed if you used tinned corn). Add some chopped parsley, and serve to rapturous applause.


2 Responses to Celebrity Masterchef: Week 1

  1. iworm says:

    Most excellent review dude. However I didn’t make it that far… Look: I love Masterchef. Watching (allegedly!) professional cooks compete. Great. Watching talented amateurs battle it out. Fab. Roux or the Aussie bloke showing some stuff: inspiring. Started watching this Celebrity version and after just over one episode turned off and gave up. 4 people, only one of whom I had any idea about (many was the time as a youngster that Linda’s perky assets… perked me up.) who clearly knew naff all about cooking. I’m a crap cook. And I’m better than them. And about as unknown too.

    I’ll return to Masterchef when it’s about cooking, however contrived and Greggified it is. But this faux-famous crap really has to stop.

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